Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artwork: Joëlle Jones, Kelly Fitzpatrick (colours)
Release Date: 22nd February 2017
[WARNING: Review contains major spoilers]
Okay, so as I sat down to review the second issue of Supergirl: Being Super from writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Joëlle Jones, one thing became painfully apparent… I’ma have to post spoilers. Not in a mean-spirited way, you understand, but rather because what happens in the opening scene of this issue plays so heavily into what happens in the rest of the story, it’d be almost impossible to talk about this latest chapter without at least hinting at it. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, here goes…
About a dozen or so pages into this latest issue, something truly terrible happens. Kara, seemingly weakened by some still-unknown reason (Hormones? Or perhaps something a little more sinister?), loses her grip on her best friend Jen while trying to save her from the Midvale earthquake, sending her plummeting to her death. The sequence is almost poetic in its unexpected horror, with both Tamaki and Jones taking a familiar superhero trope and derailing it in truly shocking fashion, forcing our teenage would-be hero to try to come to terms with the grief and guilt of her actions for the remainder of the issue.
Jones showcases all the tools in her arsenal here, from powerfully emotive facial expressions to dynamic layouts and almost tangible emotional beats. Seriously, there are some utterly fantastic moments here, with some of the single panels – Kara’s mother cradling her distraught daughter’s head to her shoulder, for instance – having just as much impact as the jaw-dropping splash pages. Kelly Fitzpatrick keeps things grounded with a fairly muted colour palette for the most part, with the wonderful use of blue and red in Kara’s track uniform providing a familiar aesthetic to her failed attempts to be a hero.
It’s beautifully done, the way Tamaki weaves this engaging, painful, coming-of-age story around this well-established character. In fact, until the last half dozen or so pages of this 48-page comic, it almost doesn’t even feel like a superhero story. And I mean that in a positive way, I assure you. From the first page of the first issue, Tamaki’s approach instantly set Being Super apart from the other Supergirl comics in DC’s catalogue, putting the “super” on the back burner and focusing instead on the girl. While it’s an approach that has been used on a variety of other characters in the past, stripping away the heroic trappings and focusing on the person behind the costume, I can honestly say that it has rarely been done as confidently and as engagingly as it is here.
Takami’s gift for wonderfully realistic sounding dialogue shines through time and time again throughout the course of this issue, particularly during the exchanges between the grief-stricken Kara and Dolly. Instead of your typical saccharine Hollywood melodrama, Takami embraces every bit of the awkward uncomfortableness of two teenagers struggling to understand how they’re supposed to act in the wake of the death of one of their closest friends. It’s incredibly touching in places, and the way the pair support each other through the hard times makes for wonderfully relatable reading.
Overall, while it’s pretty far removed from a quote-unquote “superhero story”, Supergirl: Being Super is easily one of the most enjoyable titles I’ve read so far this year. A powerful coming-of-age drama with some truly gorgeous artwork, this is a book you really owe it to yourself to try and pick up.
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